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B'More Green
An environmental blog for everyday living
Maryland poultry farms fined for reporting lapses

Nearly one in five large Maryland chicken farms has been fined recently, state regulators have disclosed, because the growers failed to file information required annually outlining what they did to keep their flocks' waste from polluting the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Since July 1, the Maryland Department of the Environment has issued notices of violation to 104 of the state's 574 "animal feeding operations." Those are farms that are regulated like factories because of the large volumes of manure generated by raising 37,500 or more birds at a time.

Of those sent violations notices, 89 were fined $250 each for submitting incomplete reports, according to Jay Apperson, a department spokesman. The other 15 received $500 fines for not reporting anything, he said. 

The reports, required once a year, spell out how much waste was generated, how it was stored to keep rainfall from washing it into nearby waterways, and what was ultimately done with it. The waste is often spread on...

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Aquaponics links fish and veggie farming

The lush beds of lettuce, mustard greens and peppers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future's greenhouse resemble the plants that Rick Lee of Damascus has grown in his greenhouse. Yet instead of traditional in-ground fertilizer, these plants get their nutrients from a different source: fish waste.

The plants, all floating in water, and the huge fish tanks stocked with tilapia connected to them, are part of a fast-growing field known as aquaponics — the combination of soilless plant gardening and fish farming. It's a method that's being embraced both for commercial uses and by individuals who just want to add more fresh food to their diets.

"Aquaponics offers a space-efficient method of producing food without soil, so it often makes sense in urban environments where good soil is scarce," said Laura Genello, manager of the Center for a Livable Future's Aquaponics Project at Cylburn Arboretum.

To find out more about how this method of growing food is being used, The Johns...

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Groups wade in to double Maryland's 'clean power' goal

Activists waded into Baltimore's harbor Friday to launch a campaign for an increase Maryland's commitment to "clean" electricity from wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy.

Leaders of the environmental, labor and other groups stood hip-deep at Canton Waterfront Park to dramatize the threat that rising sea level from climate change poses to coastal communities like Baltmore.

A broad coalition, including religious, public health and businesses groups, has formed to press Maryland lawmakers to double the state's mandated goal of getting 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2022.  Their goal: 40 percent by 2025.

Only about 8 percent of the electricity generated in Maryland now comes from renewable sources, with the bulk of that attributable to hydropower. Of the rest, 44 percent comes from coal, 40 percent from nuclear and nearly 8 percent comes from natural gas.

Speakers argued that increasing the state's share of electricity from wind, solar and other...

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Marylanders want more solar, wind power

Marylanders really, really want to get more of their electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind, a new poll finds. Most also apparently back government mandates to make it happen, even if they have to pay a little more for their power.

The survey by George Mason University comes as environmental activists prepare to launch a campaign to press Maryland lawmakers to double the state's renewable energy goal, even though there's been only modest progress to date toward the current target.

The poll also comes in the closing weeks of a hotly contested race for governor. Although the Democratic and Republican contenders have said little about energy policy, recent interviews found they differ over how far the state should go toward promoting wind and solar.

In querying more than 2,000 residents, George Mason detected growing support for renewable energy, with 78 percent favoring development of more solar generation while 69 percent back offshore and land-based wind. Those ratings...

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County bill sparks debate over tourism on farms

Hay rides, pumpkin patches, corn mazes and petting zoos are common autumn sights at farms in Maryland. But efforts to provide legislative protections in Baltimore County for such agricultural attractions — and more — are drawing criticism from local land preservationists and setting up a countywide battle over the ways that farmers can make money.

The county bill, known as Zoning Regulations — Agriculture Tourism, has the support of many farmers seeking new ways to squeeze a profit from their land. The legislation, scheduled for a vote next week, spells out a number of agriculture-related activities that farmers would be able to host "by right."

"Farming income ebbs and flows with the times, with the weather, with the year," said Wayne McGinnis, a farmer and member of the county planning board. "So everybody is looking for a way to add value."

But others in the county fear the measure would let people pave over farmland and put environmental resources in danger.

"We think it's a...

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Flood warning: Baltimore, Annapolis, Ocean City seen getting wetter much more often

With minor flooding forecast Wednesday morning for Baltimore and elsewhere along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, there's a new warning that rising seas are likely to encroach more often and reach farther inland in coming decades.

The National Weather Service issued a coastal flooding advisory Tuesday night for Anne Arundel, Calvert and Harford counties and southern Baltimore. Onshore winds combined with higher than normal tides were expected to cause "minor shoreline inundation" in low-lying areas.

A report issued Wednesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists says tidal flooding already is happening more often than it did in the past in coastal communities like Baltimore. With sea level predicted to rise by a foot over the next 30 years, the environmental group warns, such periodic disruptions could become a chronic problem, closing streets and driving people from homes and businesses on a regular basis.

The union's report is just the latest of several to warn of increased...

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